Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Pennsylvania
Erie County, Pennsylvania has laws which govern how individual parcels of land can be used, and how they cannot. These rules aren't always simple, and this article should serve as an introduction to some of the most common issues that homeowners might face, though it is not meant to turn a layperson into an expert.
"Zoning" refers to a set of laws and regulations which state what use can be made of land in different parts of a city or county. Generally, localities are divided up into "zones," which are designated for certain categories of use, such as single-family residence, business, manufacturing, etc.
Local governments have several different reasons for enacting zoning laws, ranging from ensuring that residential areas are peaceful and quiet, to protecting property values. For example, most people wouldn't buy a home in a neighborhood where they knew it was possible for a neighbor to turn their house into a factory.
On the other hand, zoning laws recognize and attempt to accommodate the necessity of factories and other industrial activities. They simply seek to ensure that such activities are conducted in a way that they don't conflict with the rights of adjacent landowners to use and enjoy their property in peace.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Erie County, Pennsylvania
You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or current use of your property violates Erie County, Pennsylvania's zoning regulations.
First, and perhaps most obviously, you can correct the violation. If the violation is relatively minor, and correcting it would not cost you much or be a significant burden, this might be the best way to go.
But what happens if you've invested a large amount of effort and money into improving your land, and you later discover that you've committed some relatively minor zoning violation? You are generally entitled to seek what is known as a "variance" in these cases. A variance is simply when your local government makes a small exception to the zoning rules to accommodate a small violation that would be difficult to fix. A variance will usually be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing Erie County, Pennsylvania's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.
You also have significant protections if a zoning law changes, and you find that the land you've been living on for years is suddenly in violation of the new law. In general, zoning laws cannot apply to structures and uses which were built or commenced before the law was changed. Under the U.S. Constitution, it's not permissible for state or local governments to pass laws which have retroactive effect. You should know, however, that any future changes you make to your property will have to comply with the new zoning law.
What Can A Erie County, Pennsylvania Attorney Do?
If you are in the process of physically altering your property, you are almost certain to face some issues having to do with local zoning laws. If you find that zoning laws are making it very difficult to use your property as you see fit, you may have legal recourse, usually in the form of a variance. Of course, your chances of success in any zoning dispute will be immeasurably increased if you have the help of a qualified Erie County, Pennsylvania attorney.